I received word last week that my natural father died. I had not seen him in 30 years, and had not spoken with him in 9 years. I did my best to try to keep in contact, but it is a long-standing mystery in my life why he has not wanted to keep in touch with my brother and me.
I had always hoped for the chance to see him again, or at least talk with him again. I had always hoped to solve this mystery and come to understand. Now I am adjusting to the realization that it is very likely that I will never know.
To have a parent not take an interest in your life is hard to live with. All my life I’ve been trying to do something spectacular to justify my existence and prove my worthiness for love. “Maybe if I did something really great and wonderful and became famous, my father would finally notice me and be happy to be related to me,” was a primary motivating force throughout my life, though I did not consciously realize this for a long time. By the time I did realize it, I was able to deconstruct all of the premises supporting this belief, but, in a way, it was too late. The pattern had become too deeply ingrained in my entire being. My whole being had been indelibly shaped by a constant desire to prove myself worthy of existence and love.
When my father was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago, my cousin redoubled his efforts to get him to be in touch with us, but to no avail. My father even forbade my cousin to let us know that he was ill. Thankfully, my cousin did break the rules to let us know that he had died – if he had not, I was perilously close to finding out through the internet. I periodically did internet searches to see what my dad was up to. He was, as they say, “highly respected in his field,” and so has a pretty impressive web presence. But the online obituaries now appearing do not mention my brother and me at all among the list of survivors.
It’s hard to know how to handle a death like this, when the “official” survivors don’t want us involved, for reasons we do not understand. I revert back to the child I was when I did last know him, and with childlike simplicity absolutely cannot fathom why other people are blocking two young kids from coming into that sacred space of honoring and saying goodbye to their dead father. Never mind that we are complicated grown-up adults now – still, we are solid good people, well-respected in our own fields. No one should have any reason not to want to see who we have become.
From afar, we try to peer over a fence too high for us to see over. Through small cracks in the fence (the internet), we catch glimpses of love and laughter and appreciation that seems otherworldly to us, perpetually out of reach. Is it real? Was he real?
Did he not care, or did he care so much he couldn’t handle it?
How would all of our lives be different if only … ?
But of course such questions can drive a person crazy. It is too late now.
I’ll go on trying to prove myself worthy of love, because it is the only way I know how to live. It doesn’t matter that it’s hopeless, because I already did figure that out: human love anyway is always inadequate. Strangely, this thought has come to comfort me. It sounds bleak, but it has helped me to become more forgiving and more accepting. Over the years, I have come to see how I’ve always been surrounded by love. So what if it has seldom or never been perfect? Why should I expect it to be? Do I love in a perfect way? No! I wish I did, but I know that I fall short because of my own limitations. So I can understand why others fall short too. No one is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent—except God. There is a perfect love that is there for us, but never will any one human being manifest it all perfectly.
So, even though there is a lot I do not understand about my father and my own distant past, I actually do believe that he loved me. Much of that love never reached me, and much of my own love for him was blocked from reaching him too. This is tragic.
But the love that was there was and is still real.
6 years ago